Anna Martin - General Care Projects in Jamaica
I arrived in Kingston on a big day for Jamaica. It was 6th August, a public holiday, celebrating Jamaica’s independence since 1962. My 9 hour flight went smoothly and after immigration I was met by my driver, Kevin. The two hour journey involved stopping to try some Magnum and taste my first Ginnep. That was one of a few fruits I needed to be shown how to eat! I had a lot of fun trying.
I arrived at my host family, late Friday evening. They were really friendly but I was very tired so I slept very well. I had my first experience of Jamaican culture the next day at Church with the family. It was an extremely peaceful and welcoming place to start off my time in Jamaica. After a weekend at my new home I met my roommate. Sharing with another person is really valuable because it meant we could share our experiences and make plans for our weekends. We helped each other adjust to the culture differences.
Orientation allowed me to get to grips with Mandeville and what the town provided. It took me a while but I managed to get around without getting lost too many times and when I did the locals were friendly enough to point me in the right direction. The taxis were very different to home, but it didn’t take long before I knew what routes to take and it was the norm to have 6 or 7, sometimes 8 people in the taxi with you. The many taxis and public buses meant you can go just about anywhere from Mandeville, you just need to get the right price! I was never short of choice for food in the town. Jerk Chicken being a favourite on most menus and the really popular Juicy Patties. So much time was spent in “Juiceys”.
My placement began at Healthfield Community but with a change of heart I was placed at Windsor Lodge Children’s home. Getting to spend every day making little children smile and laugh was priceless. I also participated in the home schooling at the children’s home. The small class of 5 required additional support needs so I was able to facilitate some lessons and provide one to one support. Being in a placement with other volunteers was a good idea. I felt it was reassuring and comforting. With many projects to choose from, the Care Project was an experience totally worth it. The children welcomed me with open arms and sometimes I didn’t want to let go!
I was lucky I had several weekends to visit various parts of the island with the other volunteers. I visited Ocho Rios and swam with Dolphins. An experience I would recommend to new volunteers. I also travelled to Montego Bay and Runaway Bay, where I relaxed in the sun as Mandeville’s climate is a bit cooler. I went to the YS falls and I also did the Black River Tour seeing the Alligators.
Visiting Negril with 21 of the volunteers, on a public bus was an experience I won’t forget! The sand, the sea and the locals made the weekend great and also horse riding on the beach was good fun. The boat ride in the thunder and lightning I don’t think many will forget either! Trips organised with Projects abroad were much appreciated too. The most memorable for me would be the Bob Marley museum in Kingston. The dinner and games brought some laughs as did the Patios and reggae classes.
At times I found being away from home difficult. I had to also adjust to the food. I tried my best to experience some of the different foods Jamaica has to offer. Although Callaloo, ackee and saltfish were some of the other volunteers favourites, I preferred the plantain, potato pudding and curried goat. The weather changed over the two months here, from the extreme heat to tropical storms. My rain coat came in very handy!
Projects Abroad introduced me to many different cultures, not just Jamaican. Many volunteers were from around the world and for that I am very grateful to Projects Abroad for those I met and have made good friends. My knowledge and respect for this country has grown and I appreciate the kindness and warmth so many have shown me. The time spent with my host family have provided so many great memories and the children at Windsor Lodge will always be the best part of this trip.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.